Big game hunting guide, Allison Coil, loves the mountains of Colorado and their utter serenity, “the sensation of nature, of horse, of lakes and woods.” It is her “addiction.” Her music is the mournful howl of a coyote. Her job allows her the freedom to enjoy it all.
The problem is, the Roan Plateau, west of her hunting campsite in the Flat Tops, is the target of natural gas developers, of a corporation that plans to start ‘fracking’ to access the gas. If ranch owners sell their mineral rights, they stand to make millions. But, in the process, the woods might disappear and so would the game.
The death of one of her clients, Josh Keating, appears to be an accident, but Coil isn’t buying it. Keating was too experienced to have been as stupid as the so-called drunken ‘accident’ made him appear. And, then there is the fact that now that he’s dead, Keating’s wife gets to make decisions about their gas-rich land that he might not have approved.
Add in dead buffalo on Keating’s property, pristine mountain water being poisoned, scheming relatives, businessmen determined to get their piece of the financial windfall, militant environmentalists, a media frenzy as federal officials make decisions, a devolutionist who reports his back-to-nature experience on YouTube, and we have a multi-layered story in “Buried by the Roan” that was a finalist for the 2012 Colorado Book Awards and the Colorado Authors League.
Author Mark Stevens successfully presents both sides of the environmental fight, allowing his characters to become as passionate as the real-life residents of the high country. Big money aside, several locals care deeply about retaining the look and feel of the mountains, even bashing the impact of the ski resorts on their beloved state.
One faction in “Buried by the Roan” is in favor of slow-food, produce and other goods grown and sold locally so as to have less impact on the ecosystem. Herbalist Trudy Heath, Allison Coil’s close friend, sells homemade pesto, cooks mouth-watering organic food, and is reluctantly drawn into the politics of the slow-food cause. That involvement and Allison’s murder investigation cross paths in a believable way as Allison’s life is threatened.
Stevens weaves two romances into the novel, for Allison as well as Trudy, both realistic, but quite different. Allison’s daydreaming about younger Colin is amusing and we root for the relationship to blossom into something more.
Robin Cook, a bestselling author of 31 thrillers, famously said that mysteries should be about something beyond the puzzle in the mystery itself. “Buried by the Roan” has plenty of hot topics to occupy book club (and other) discussions without hitting us over the head with the very real issues at its core.